It was a thrilling moment last Sunday when Philippines' Elias Tabac rushed into the finish at the Kaliandra Eco Resort in Malang, East Java, Indonesia. The super tough Mantra Summits Challenge is run on remote high mountain trails with little to no mobile connectivity, and the scarse announcements that came through to the event arena were indicating Pablo Diago Gonzales was about to grab his fifth career ATM race victory.
But as it turned out, Davao’s Elias Tabac passed Pablo Diago Gonzales in the last kilometre of the 75k and 5500 hm race! He won in 14:36, his second ATM race victory of the season after Pilipinas Akyathlon. Tabac now has 1000 championship points and is 11th in the championship ranking, alongside his compatriot John Ray Onifa. With many more points races yet to come this season, can Elias Tabac be a contender for the ATM championship title?
In the Mantra race, ran mainly at nighttime by the faster guys, Tabac struggled without headlight in the second half of the night. Ukraine's Mikhailo Pavliuk, Alessandro Sherpa, Arief Wismoyono had all climbed up Arjuno Welirang close to each other. A very trim-looking Pablo Diago Gonzales - third in this race last year and keen to win it this time around - then made an attack,and ran together an advantage of half an hour by km 42. Tabac was in second place at that point but started chasing the Spaniard down as it got dawn. That took a lot of effort, especially as his running shoes completely disintegrated on the very rough and technical trails. His heels became entirely exposed as the shoe soles broke off. Pablo Diago Gonzales was already in cruising mode approaching the Kaliandra resort, and couldn't believe it when Tabac rushed passed him with just over 1 km to go! The Filipino pace was too high to even try to fight back. Tabac ran his heart out and grabbed the victory.
Pablo Diago Gonzales has one consolation: he regains the points lead from Japan’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi in the ATM Championship with his fifth result of the season. He now totals 2100 points in five races, of which four were podiums but as of yet no wins this season. In any case, his tally, which will be boosted by another 50 for the abroad bonus, is the first real benchmark for anyone who wants to become ATM champion this year. It was a very strong and aggressive run by the Singapore-based Spaniard, who prepared well for Mantra and even lost approx 4 kg to be able to climb faster.
Alessandro Sherpa, winner of Penang Eco 100k last May, came into the finish at the Kaliandra Eco Resort as third, but one hour behind the front runners. Sherpa had an eventful night and also had to cope with belly cramps. Ukraine's Mykhailo Pavliuk was a - relative - new face in fourth place. Pavliuk is known for his fast climbing speed and had prepared himself in Malang for a week to do well in this race, his first ever race beyond 50 km. Pavliuk was right up there with Sherpa and Wismoyono, but lost terrain towards the end as he also got lost late in the night. Bandung’s Arief Wismoyono arrived in fifth place in just over 17 hours. He will strengthen his top 5 rank in the ATM Championship with this fourth result of the season, but probably had hoped for more. Australia's Andy Bourke took 7th, ahead of India's Shashwat Rao and the 2 Malaysians Shahrin and Grandmaster Yim Heng Fatt, who completed his first ATM race of the season after a longish competitive break. Shashwat Rao has made it into the top 10 of the ATM Championship with his fine effort. He is in 8th place with 1080 points from three races.
Ruth Theresia has given the Indonesian home crowd something to celebrate also, as she won the women's 75k race, coming in as 10th overall. The hard-fought victory puts her back on top of the ATM Championship standings as well, at the expense of Philippines' Aggy Sabanal, who reportedly returns to ATM action in September. Ruth Theresia 's compatriot Sri Wahyuni from Surabaya took another podium place in an ATM points race: second. Kuala Lumpur’s Erin Puteri Aziz from team ULTRON was a great third. All three women feature at the top of the ATM championship thanks to today’s performances. Ruth Theresia leads of course, today was her third victory of the season already!
Interestingly, and perhaps something to think about, only 2 Indonesian runners (1 man, 1 woman and both Team Bandung Explorer ) made it into the top 10 of this Indonesian race...
The next points races are the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset and the Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia.